Negotiation as a context for learning syntax in a second language
Evidence from a growing number of studies has revealed important contributions of a type of interaction identified as negotiation for the process of second language (L2) learning. To date, no research has examined whether negotiation could assist learning L2 syntax. The present study asked if negotiation could aid one process in learning L2 syntax known as syntacticization.
The first research question addressed was: (1) To what extent are linguistic modifications during negotiation evidence of syntacticization? A second research interest focused on the effects of types of negotiation on syntacticization. Therefore, the second research question addressed was: (2) To what extent is there a differential effect for different types of negotiation moves on syntacticization? Previous research suggested that clarification signals during negotiation could elicit more linguistic modifications by learners than confirmation signals. Consequently, both types of negotiation move were investigated.
Research on L2 learning has also revealed that negotiation provides opportunities for learners to comprehend unfamiliar input, to produce modified output, to be given feedback, and to focus on form. Evidence suggests that if negotiation was intensified and if discourse was manipulated to focus on specific L2 features, then negotiation should affect syntacticization over time. This led to the third research question: (3) To what extent does negotiation affect syntacticization over time?.
A pretest-posttest-delayed posttest experimental design compared negotiation's potential to aid syntacticization among four groups of L2 learners. Experimental/control treatments were contained within ten sessions as learners participated in communication tasks with native speakers through computerized writing conferences.
Results indicated that: (1) learners who interacted could stimulate syntacticization and continue to syntacticize over time, but those who negotiated accelerated the process over a short period, (2) syntacticization was not contingent on type of treatment, (3) syntacticization over short periods made no difference to group scores for pretest-posttest-delayed posttests targetting tense and aspect, and (4) clarification request signals during negotiation were significantly more effective for syntacticization than confirmation checks over a short time, but not over a longer period.